Update 15 - Bandit Territory
- Bam to Mirjaveh.
11th January 2002.
leg of the journey was an experience! The Bam to Zahedan
road is infamous for a number of reasons - it snakes
through barren desert, up and over a couple of rocky
mountain ranges, there are very few facilities and it
is bandit territory apparently. In the past people have
been kidnapped on this stretch of road and a couple
of years ago some Dutch cyclists were shot at whilst
camping by the road. Recent cyclists have had armed
escorts through the "dangerous" parts, but
after much debate we decided to go for it anyway.
set out from Bam as a foursome - David the Belgian had
decided to join us, whilst Juan rested his knee and
accompanied Kat on the bus. The sun was shining and
the wind was behind us so we zipped along past a few
small villages and a couple of police controls without
incident. We stopped at one small village, at Restaurant
17, for lunch. We were just tucking in to our aubergine
and tomato stewy things, when a busload of young army
guys appeared. They were friendly and inquisitive and
we signed lots of diaries before we finally got away.
David had bought a new rear pannier rack in Bam, but
it was one of those rather flimsy Iranian jobs and it
wobbled all over the place. We were taking bets (highly
illegal in Iran!) on whether it would get to Zahedan
or not, but in fact it wasn't David who had the problem.
"I have a major problem" said Matt. We discovered
that the rear pannier boss had snapped off the frame
- a testament to the strength of our excellent Tubus
pannier racks - the frame snaps before they do! Fortunately
the problem was easily solved by simply attaching the
rack to the mudguard boss. We continued on and the desert
became ever more barren. Soon all we could see was sand
in every direction.
wind was getting stronger all the time and had switched
direction, now coming at us as a rather evil crosswind.
Before we knew it we were in a full-on sandstorm. Wow,
this was what desert cycling was all about! We stopped
to take photos and suddenly Matt ran out into the desert
for no apparent reason. We found out when he eventually
got back, that his glasses case had blown away, but
by now it was probably in Mashad, miles to the north.
Our first night on the road was spent in the security
of a police compound at Shurgaz, a place that consisted
of a police compound, and, errr, nothing else. Atop
one of the turrets was a rather large machine gun and
we pitched our tents amongst the spent cartridges on
the sand. Nice place! The wind continued to blow throughout
the night and buffeted the tents all over the place.
Next day was when the fun really started. We had started
climbing up a long gradual climb when we saw a cyclist
coming towards us. It turned out to be a Japanese guy
on a shopper bike, with all his belongings in a basket
and rucksack. We chatted briefly, he'd cycled from Bombay,
when something else caught our attention - his escort
turned up - a Toyota Landcruiser with a bloody great
machine gun on the back. "We want one" we
said to ourselves, not because of security, but simply
for novelty value! And later, our escort turned up -
sadly without a big gun. He didn't hang around long
either, obviously bored with our slow progress up the
hill and sped off to the top - clearing the way for
us I guess.
We arrived at Nostar Abad, a friendly small town full
of white-robed Baluchis, and eventually managed to get
a place to camp - just outside the police compound in
the middle of the village. "Great, we're going
to be surrounded by locals in seconds" we thought,
but actually we needn't have worried, a curfew seemed
to hit the town as soon as it got dark. "This place
is dangerous, bang, bang", a young Tehrani called
Hameed, doing his military service here, told us as
we cooked our dinner that night. Hmmmm, comforting.....
We slept surprisingly well considering, and set off
the next morning. "I'm not leaving until they get
the big gun out for us" said Matt, but no escort
appeared and we were alone, cycling through the "Black
Mountains" - apparently not named just for their
colour! The day passed without incident however, the
highlight being the "Who can spit a date stone
the furthest" game. Adrian won. Well done.
arrived in Zahedan, and were immediately shocked by
the number of Afghan people there. In fact, Iran has
more refugees than any country in the world, an even
greater burden on an already fairly poor country. Zahedan
wasn't as bad as the guidebook makes out, and apart
from having a few hassles with the passports at the
hotel and having to pay 10 times more than Kat the German
for a Pakistani visa (grrrrr!), we had a nice time there
- celebrating Christmas Eve with a bog standard Iranian
Christmas Day. Bloody hell, we're in Iran, in the middle
of nowhere. It's days like this when you suddenly realise
where you are. We had planned to spend the night in
Mirjaveh on the Iranian side of the border, but we soon
discovered that the only hotel in town had closed, and
by now we were all itching to get into Pakistan. We
were the last people to cross the border on that day,
making it the shortest Christmas' we have ever had (Pakistan
is 1.5hrs ahead). Although Iran had been great, it was
time to move on.......